Thursday, February 14, 2019

Trinidad Oyster Cocktail

Last year, there was a time when I was making many different oyster shooters.  It all started with the Oyster Shooters with Tomato, Lime and Chiles, which I named the best recipe ever.  It still is the best recipe. Needless to say, I wanted to try different oyster shooter recipes. That led to Andalusian-Inspired Oyster Shooters, which used a gazpacho base for the shooter. Finally, I tried a more traditional oyster shooter recipe, a Sriracha Bloody Mary Oyster Shooter. 

This year, I decided to take the oyster shooter world-wide.  The start is with a recipe for Trinidad Oyster cocktail.  Oysters are a popular street food in Trinidad and Tobago.  The oysters -- crassostrea rhizophorae -- are harvested from the western shores of Trinidad, and/or the Claxton Bay Mangrove System.  The oysters make their way to local markets, such as the market in Marabella, where they would be sold raw or in a cocktail.  

It is that cocktail that is my focus with this recipe.  I found a recipe from someone who could recall eating the oyster cocktail in Marabella.  However, that was over twenty years ago, and, was an approximation based on memory.  The recipe nevertheless provided a good start.  But I made some adjustments to the recipe.  I eliminated the chives, because I did not have any on hand.  I decided to substitute out the water and replace it with beer.  After all, there should be some alcohol in a cocktail, right?  To keep it at least regional, I decided to use either Carib or Red Stripe.  (Given the greater availability of Red Stripe, that beer made its way into the cocktail.) 

Another adjustment, and by far the biggest one, had to be to the amounts of the ingredients.  The original recipe called for 2 oysters, but I had a pint of oysters.  That pint probably had about 10 to 12 oysters. Multiplying that recipe by a factor of five to six would mean that I was using 5 to 6 habanero peppers.  So, I reduced the number of peppers, increased the amount of tomato and added scallions.  When I prepared the base using my approximation of the ingredients, which included only 2 habanero peppers, it was still very spicy and acidic. The addition of the beer cut the acidity and blunted the piquancy of the peppers.  The base was still too spicy for some of my guests, so I cut it further with a pinch or three of sugar.  The sweetness of the sugar balanced the spiciness of the peppers.

My final adjustment was to puree the ingredients together.  My concern with the original recipe is that the cocktail would end up more like a salsa.  The blending of the ingredients allowed for something that looked more like cocktail, a far better liquid in which the raw oysters could "swim." 

In the end, this is not a true Trinidad Oyster Cocktail, at least how it was remembered by the author of the recipe.   It is my version of the cocktail.  And, in the end, every stall in any market inevitably has someone who makes a cocktail in their own way, with their own recipe.  One could try an oyster cocktail from two different sellers and have two different culinary experiences. This is what I love about cooking.  

Recipe adapted from CaribbeanPot
Serves 4

1 pint of oysters, liqueur reserved
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bunch of scallions, white portions sliced,
      green portions sliced thinly and reserved
3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 lemons juiced
2 limes juiced
2 small habanero peppers, seeded
1 small bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 cup of beer (preferably Carib or Red Stripe)
A couple pinches of sugar (optional)

1.  Prepare the base.  Add the tomatoes, white portions of the scallions, garlic, cilantro, lemon juice, lime juice and habanero peppers to a blender.  Puree until smooth.

2.  Add the beer.  Pour the base into a plastic bowl.  Add the beer.  Taste to determine the spiciness of the base.  At this point, it should be quite hot.  If it is too spicy, you can balance it out with a pinch or two of sugar.  

3.  Finish the cocktail.  Ladle some of the cocktail into a lowball glass or a shooter.  Add 1 to 2 oysters and ladle a little more of the cocktail.  Garnish with the thinly sliced green portions of the scallions.  Serve immediately. 


1 comment:

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